It’s a confusing time, we understand (Picture: AFP)
Boris Johnson likely aimed to provide some reassurance to people that he had a handle on the coronavirus crisis during his press conference this evening.
It has been a dismal week for the government, which faced a large rebellion on Covid passes last night as well as headlines about alleged rule-breaking parties held by the Tories last year.
But unfortunately, he ended up mixing up a crucial number on cases, claiming that there had been almost a million new coronavirus infections today.
He told the nation that there had been 780,000 new cases – clearly an alarming figure.
In fact, there were 78,610 lab-confirmed cases. It is still a record figure for the UK, and an increase of almost 20,000 cases in 24 hours.
Mr Johnson said: ‘The wave of Omicron continues to roll in across the whole of our UK with over 780,000 Covid cases today – the highest-ever daily number reported.’
The error was quickly noticed by people watching, with journalist Graham Cunningham tweeting: ‘Jesus, he had one job – to get the number of cases right – and he comes out and says there have been 780,000 cases today. He really is a hapless spoofer.’
Another pointed out he was wrong by a factor of ten and suggested that if he did a weather report he might predict temperatures of 250C.
Mr Johnson went on: ‘The doubling rate of Omicron in some regions is down to less than two days and I’m afraid that we’re also seeing the inevitable increase in hospitalisations – up by 10% nationally week on week – and up by almost a third in London.’
He said there was some hope, as more than 45% of all adults in England had now received a booster vaccine dose, including more than 88% of those aged 70 or over.
Professor Chris Whitty also appeared at the press conference, and explained the data in more detail.
He said ‘there are several things we don’t know, but all the things that we do know are bad’, particularly the speed of the outbreak.
The UK is seeing ‘two epidemics on top of one another’ as the Delta and Omicron variants both circulate, he said, with levels of the previously dominant Delta strain roughly flat, but Omicron levels ‘very rapidly growing’.
He said that it was still too early to make conclusions about hospitalisation levels, as they lag behind the initial positive test.
‘Rates are currently flat but they are beginning to increase in some places, particularly in London,’ he said.
But he warned there will be an ‘increasing number of patients’, saying that the likelihood of substantial numbers being apparent after Christmas was ‘a reasonably nailed on prospect’.
‘Deaths of course reflect what happened even earlier in time and those are still, in anything, going down very slightly.
‘But this of course doesn’t reflect anything in terms of Omicron because the emergence of Omicron and its spread is far too recent.’
He said that people needed to ‘prioritise what matters’ in the run-up to Christmas and therefore ‘deprioritise other things’ with potential limiting of social contacts.
He said you ‘don’t need a medical degree to realise that is a sensible thing to do with an incredibly infectious virus’.
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